new piece in lit.cat

I submitted my piece, first grade crush, this past Sunday morning and received notification that evening it was accepted for the next publication which came out yesterday.

Fastest notice ever.

(Followed up when I applied for a gig a few years ago at Harvard in the evening and received the rejection the following morning. I was crushed it was not sent on parchment via owl.)

The story is based on the fact I named my brother after my first grade crush, which is all true.

Anyway, you should go read it.

(I’m also going to plug and say you should read lit.cat even if they didn’t publish my piece. Their issues are set up for a total of 30 minute reads and they publish twice a month. I’ve been impressed with the quality of writing over there.)

and you get a submission, and you get a submission

I am a BEAST.

Last week Friday, I cranked out a 15 syllable poem for submission to tinywords, a 2K word blog post, and a 3K creative non-fiction essay  I submitted to BuzzFeed. If I still smoked, there would have been a cigarette at the end of the day.


The poem that I submitted to tinywords:
lips cherry red     body sags
hollow breath      she is then released

A 15 syllable poem is a fixed haiku and the layout is as above: two lines, 15 syllables, and double spacing between the breaths.

That shit was hard. You’d think, “Oh, a 15 syllable poem! I can knock that out of the park in a few minutes.” Oh, no no no. There were over half a dozen attempts and about two hours of work into that sucker. (The formatting of the submission page wouldn’t allow for the double spacing between the breaths so each breath is on its own line.)

I’m pretty sure lips cherry red could probably be further tightened, but it is what it is.

See, what else? I submitted another poem, they (we) say, with the theme of “Meditation, Mindfulness, Silence, Stillness, or Solitude”  to a poetry contest. A micro-fiction (50 word) piece was submitted to Fifty Word Stories.

Right now I’m working on a prose/poetry thing, swallowing consonants, and a short story, winter has been cancelled.

Not really part of the submission or writing process, but I updated my 50 word bio to include I don’t fucking live in Brooklyn because I’m really tired of every other writer being from Brooklyn.


Why is this flurry of activity different or more succinctly, why should you believe me now that I’m actually working?

Because instead of making an actual big production about writing shit, I sat down and actually wrote some shit and submitted said shit. (And I am nervous about the submissions, because obviously.)

(Let’s take a look at my submission record: Flurry of submissions in August 2015, one each in August and October 2016 then the flurry of submissions beginning of February 2017.)

So, now you’re going to ask, “But how is this time different?”

Two things: I started writing shit down by hand in a notebook and I started to read literary magazines and blogs with actual interest, not just skimming them over to see what they were looking for.


Back in September, I wrote a piece on using a spreadsheet to manage submissions, using Duotrope and my google alerts to grab submission openings and contests across the internets. I sat down and looked at the themes and then I started reading the actual sites and what inspired me was that I saw so many different pieces of writing being published. It wasn’t straight plot / character / linear pieces. There were prose poems, experimental pieces, and short fragments of micro-flash fiction. And I thought, “I can do this. I can write this.”

they (we) say came about by writing shit down, transferring it to Scivener, and then making the parts connect. The handwritten parts at first glance looked like two separate poems but after transcribing them to digital, I saw the connections and I worked those connections until the pieces fit seamlessly.

lips cherry red was a burst of phrases that I worked and reworked on paper, counting syllables, until it felt just right.

swallowed consonants is coming about from free form writing; winter has been cancelled from the idea of, “Well. What if winter had been cancelled? What would the floral and fauna do?”

I have other pieces that were half written or notes were taken and I now look at them and think, “Okay. I can make you work. Where is my pen and notebook.”

(I’m finding working in pencil has been helpful and easier than my usual erasable pen. Go figure.)

And the final third part: Writing has become that drug I need again and does not feel like work.

Thank fucking god.

cabinet particulier the reboot

In 2012, laid up from ankle surgery, I came up with an idea to while away the time: I’d write a book. The book centers around an American actress living in England who has massive stage fright but continues to get jobs due to her extraordinary beauty. As she gets long in the tooth, a patron gives her a Kodak Brownie as a gift to keep her occupied during her downtime and she discovers she’s brilliant with a camera. After I fleshed out my character a bit, more ideas came forward: Edwardian period, magical realism, fairies, Arthur Conan Doyle, motorbikes, and a murder and you have a fantastic world in the making.

(This doesn’t mean I’ll be using all the things or anything else comes up but hey! having too much is better than not having enough.)

The name of the project is “Cabinet Particulier,” which is a term used for enclosed rooms in restaurants where men would meet their mistresses. The working title seems appropriate for a book based on a failed actress with the Edwardian version of a questionable background.

(You can read the beginning of my research notes over at exitpursuedbyabear.net.)

Months march on and in 2014, TEH and I decide I’m taking a gap year to write my book. Anyone who’s been keeping track of me these last few years know shit didn’t end up turning out that way.

(The story I’m spinning when future employers look at my resume is I took a gap year and the book stalled, which is mostly true.)

It’s almost five years (!) since the original idea smacked into my brain and I’ve decided it’s finally time to give my book the time it is due.

Let’s answer some questions:

What is the Edwardian period: Period of time begins around 1900 and ends at the beginning, mostly, of WWI (1914). The dates are a bit fluid, with dates extended on either direction but is considered the gap period between Victorian age and the Roaring ’20s. Some scholars consider it to be the tail end of the Victorian era while others, like myself, see it as a wholly different period. The period is named for the English king, King Edward VII, who comes into power after his mother, Queen Victoria (the name sake of the Victorian era), dies. In the US, the period is loosely referred to as “The Gilded Age” and in France, “Belle Époque.”

Why the Edwardian period: I knew I wanted the book to be historical fiction and I also knew I wanted the period to be close to contemporary times since there would be more research available (hah!). I tend to gravitate to periods pre-Depression era (1930s) but I wanted something different than your usual molls and gangsters of the 1920s. The turn of the 20th century was huge with big changes: Cars were becoming affordable and popular, same with radios, telephones, and electricity. Cameras and bikes were also coming into their own. People were becoming more literate, printing was cheap, and you saw the rise of mass produced books and magazines.  The attitudes were more relaxed than the perceived stuffiness of the Victorians and lifestyles was more opulent and extravagant. I also wanted it to be pre-sinking of the Titanic (1912).

In short, it was an era where anything and everything could be possible.

Influences: When I began my research, I found women, more so than men, were commercial and artistic photographers, so giving her a new job was easy. Popular travelogues of the era were written by women. There was a spike in the belief in the supernatural — The Victorians loved their ghost stories, seances, and research into the otherworld carried over to the beginning of the century. It became more socially acceptable for a woman to have jobs that would have been unseemly in the Victorian era, namely actresses and models. Thanks to telephones and postcards (yes, really), communication was easier and faster. This is also the rise of the middle class so you’re seeing a lot money spent on vacations, luxuries, and entertainment.

Research: has been sketchy. Finding material that works specifically with that period has been hard. While there seems to be a zillion blogs/websites/books on Victorians and the Roaring ’20s and forward, the Edwardian period seems to be forgotten. Much of the social commentary on WWI tends to lean towards the Roaring ’20s rather than the time before it. Since many scholars and historians consider the period to be late-Victorian, what I have been finding for resources tend to be footnotes in those works. I thought the popularity of Downton Abbey would see a rush of amateur historians coming to the rescue, but no. I’ve been expanding my search terms to find more information –  Art Nouveau is such an example.

Where are we at now: I took a fiction class in the fall of 2015 and workshopped the first chapter and it was well received. I’ve been playing around with characters, theme, and story lines so the basic idea, “failed American actress living in London,” is starting to flesh out. Since I gave away my print books on the topic, I’m starting my research from scratch. There is an accompanying Pinboard, PinterestTumblr sites as well as a RSS feed if you want to follow along. Posts, as always, will be cross-posted over on Facebook. My Scrivener files are still intact.

What’s next: Now that my meds are under control which means my focus is better, I’m going to sketch out a plan of attack. I know I need to do a lot of research and I should also work on note taking of character / plot / scene. I bought a mechanics book on novel writing to help with the basics. (I’ve found celebrated books such as Stephen Kings On Writing are nothing more than expositioned mental masturbation. The first rule of writing is there is no formula for writing. Reading 300 pages of essays from famous authors does nothing for me. That’s great you drank a bottle of gin before you sat down and wrote The Great American Novel™ but not everyone is going to be that type of writer.) I need to read, read, read works of the era and whatever contemporary works on the era I an find.

In short, there is a lot of work to be done.

managing writing projects

  • 26 fiction book ideas
  • 33 fiction story ideas (shorts / novellas)
  • 19 fiction stories in progress
  • 6 non-fiction essays in progress
  • 6 fiction short stories finished
  • 8 fiction short stories to be edited / revised
  • 1 themed short story collection started
  • Afraid to say how many #100DayProject entries (i.e. not many)

And the big one:

  • 10 life projects

When I tell my therapists I have projects in the works,  I am referring to life projects. Things like “find a job,” “update/manage lisa.rabey.net” (librarian site), and so on are all individual life projects. Each “project” requires its own energy and resources. “Finding a job” meant spending 30+ hours a week on job searching, writing applications, finding references, and anything else associated with that task. I also spent five+ hours a week researching and updating my librarian (main career goal) site to keep myself fresh and relevant in the field.

Those two projects are related (but separate) and seem like they should take up a good chunk of my time. They are and they did but I didn’t have just those two life projects to keep me busy: I have 10.

Let’s give another example:

Code Louisville (life project #1) uses Team Treehouse (life project #2) as the foundational courses for Code Louisville’s cohorts. I reasoned I needed to also have a website to showcase my work which led to the creation of a consulting business (life project #3) for site design / content curation (of which I had enough knowledge to be dangerous but I was taking zero classes for, so I needed to take more classes to supplement (life project #4)). These life projects could be streamlined and consolidated into a single connected project (take only foundational courses needed for Code Louisville and use the website only as CL cohort increased, stop consulting services and taking additional classes).

But I didn’t think that way. I thought if I could do all the things, my chances of getting employed / noticed / famous would increase. We know how this story ends: Spread too thin and I was not a master of any and mediocre at best for most. How do I do I approach this to make sense in my head and to get the work done?


James Altchuer has the 5/25 rule. You make a list of 25 things you want to do and keep only five, the other 20 are distractions. I am using this advice to manage my projects better. Out of the 10, five were put on hold indefinitely. Two were consolidated (Code Louisville / Team Treehouse) which leaves me another three projects I can handle: update EPbaB (and the newsletter) once a week, work on my woo-woo makey feel good stuff, and writing for a total of four projects. Code Louisville / Team Treehouse are time specific and not immediate so that’s on the backburner for the moment; updating the personal blog and newsletter takes 10 hours a week (closer to five to seven but I want to be generous with time), and the woo-woo makey feel good stuff is my daily meditation, working on DBT, seeing a therapist which is also another 10 or so hours a week. In theory, since writing can be done at anytime and anywhere, I have about 30 – 50 hours a week I can devote to writing.

On paper, this sounds great, but there is more coming down the pipeline. I’ve applied for several online tutoring jobs which while it nets me some much needed cash, it also means I’m going to be working about 20 or so hours a week which will eat into my writing time. Plus there is general life stuff: errands, going out, dog things, etc which has an unknown amount of weekly allocated time. Finally, FINALLY, there is the writing itself. I have books to read, notes to make, ideas to simmer, when do I actually sit down and just bloody write?


Writing is on the forefront of my brain for the last few months and I want to change my framing of approaching it. If I do X (which I’ve done a million times), then X would surely, finally (not really) happen. Good intentions, bad follow through and it’s fucking with my goals. Look at the writing numbers above: 26 book ideas stretching back to at least 2001. 80% of the ideas will never see the light of day. The remaining five, maybe 2 will come to fruition if I actually get cracking on them. The other numbers will roughly have the same percentage. The only increase, and probably better completion of, are the non-fiction essays since I can knock those out fairly quickly.

Therein lies the rub: writing isn’t just about writing, it’s about everything you do before (and after) you put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard). There are queries to write, research to be done, edits to be made, notes to take, possible classes to sit in, books to be read, and if you’re self-publishing, there is far more work to be done for promotion and hustling oneself out into the world.

I get overwhelmed with it all, fuck off the world and play Animal Crossing. Surprise, surprise – nothing is finished.


900 words later, we get to the point: How do I handle writing projects? Walter  Mosely’s slim treatise, This Year You Write Your Novel can be summed up as such: Allocate X hours in the morning for just writing and spend the afternoon doing administrative tasks (email, errands, research) and within a year, viola! A novel. Jonathan Franzen (jackass) has widely noted he has his wireless card removed (to prevent internet distractions) and once, “…writing in the dark, wearing earplugs and a blindfold.” to finish another novel. (Pompous twit.) But it worked for him. Other writers have even more wildly different approaches. I know of one writer who, with deadlines looming, writes whatever is due before the final hour. NaNoWriMo‘s approach tells you if you write 1600 words a day, NO EDITING, in the month of November, you too can have a complete (unedited), albeit, short novel.


Here I am, with more ideas to shake a stick at, finally time I can reasonably carve out to write, and I’m writing a blog post about managing writing projects instead of, you know, actually writing.


All is not lost! I use a 9″x12″ sketch pad to plot out my life and now I have a visual idea of what I can reasonably handle even if the other ideas are 10000% awesome. I’m, for the first time, learning from my reading in addition to enjoying it for pleasure. I’m reading technical books to refresh my English comp classes, I’ve started plotting (new!) some stories to get an idea of how I want the stories to land. I’m keeping in mind the advice I gave a few weeks ago and using the spreadsheet of doom to track everything. I am starting a task for the day and completing it rather than have many tasks unfinished. Progress on reframing my approach, tiny but visible, is being made.


It’s hard. Writing is hard. We do not come forth and spill out Harry Potter or Ulyssys on the first tries. We know of the rejections and the waiting and the struggles. We forget these things when we see authors we love become more famous or in some, become obscure. We cannot be everything at once and in all life projects, yet we try to be. We have a voice we want to be heard but we keep strangling it on the behalf of others advice with the thought of shame we are not doing things “right.”

And that’s our greatest struggle of all.

let me spreadsheet that for you

I’ve made lists and spreadsheets long before I was a librarian so when I desired to take my writing one step further and begin to submit my pieces, I needed a way to track everything without losing my mind. I’ve searched for such a thing but most of the tools were lacking. Then I came across Jamie Rubin‘s spreadsheet and later the one from The Sleeper Hit and the great spreadsheet of doom was born.1

I keeping a few of my examples to give you a better idea of how it works, starting from the left tab and over:

  • Upcoming deadlines Pretty self-explanatory. It has the name of the publication, theme/idea, due date, cost (if any), payment (flat rate or per word), and link to the submission information.
  • Stories I only count finished but you could break it up to include working as well. Title, abbreviation, word count. It should be noted some places have limits on word count hence this column. DO NOT MODIFY THE COLUMNS IN GREEN. This will become important later on.
  • Submissions Some of the cells will have drop-down options for each cell not green. Date (date you submitted);  market (which populates from the market tab); status (which populates from the configuration lists tab); leave the next three green columns alone; last date (when the piece was accepted); leave the next green column alone; and lastly, contact and notes.
  • Places to pitch The basic agreement is to collate listings of your favorite websites where you want to write and include the idea/theme of that site as well as the contact information. 75% of this list was compiled by The Sleeper Hit and I’ve been adding as I go.
  • Markets Market is similar to places to pitch with the difference by adding type of payment (populates from the configuration lists tab), the next six green columns pulling from the submissions tab, and the last green column pulling from the publications tab.
  • Publications A list of all places you’ve published coupled with how much you made for said sale. Story column will have a drop down generated by the abbreviation of your stories tab, markets pulling from markets tab; type pulling from configuration lists tab; fill in payment with how much you got paid (which will then populate the total payments column on the markets and payment summary tabs); payment date (date you received payment), and payment type (populated from the configurations lists tab); link to the piece and finally, year (which will be used in the submission and payment summaries tabs).
  • Submission summary for those who like charts.
  • Payment summary for those who like charts.
  • Configuration lists which are populated through the workbook. You can add cells (starting below the last filled cell) as necessary but do not delete the columns.
  • Instructions are for the Jamie Rubin parts of the workbook with links to their blog piece describing the process.

Some notes:

Yes, this seems overly complicated and could probably be simplified in bits but I found its current status to work well. Markets and publications and places are used interchangeably. (I should probably fix that some day for consistency.) As I’m a very visual person, having the visual gives me a better idea of how much work I’ve done in writing and submitting. At least one more tab I’m going to add is one for novel writing for daily word counts. (I don’t count blog pieces, journal entries, or anything of the sort since those have no value other  privately for me.)

There you have it!

1. The spreadsheet can be modified to fit a variety of projects, not just writing.